One of the games I'm playing on and off (and satisfying those occasional gaming rat-pellet urges with) is Heroes of Three Kingdoms.
Some of HoTK's systems are very different from what I've seen in western games - including MU*s. One particularly striking difference shows in how they handle instances, which aren't exactly instances as we commonly know them. Rather than being places to go to kill scads of things, instances in HoTK are instead re-enactments of historical battles. They're a little like what Alterac Valley would be if it were a Totally Epic PvE Experience (don't start ;)).
The Xiliang Rebellion (which is what the pics in this post are attempting to show...) is a pretty good example of what HoTK instances are like. You're supposed to 'protect' Ma Chao (some illustrious general fellow), while he charges into masses of enemies in a frothing ball of rage. I say 'protect' because really, the guy is pretty damn durable. You're side-kicking him, more or less. He's certainly more durable than you are at the minimum recommended instance level. In a different instance, (but in the same vein), you're supposed to defend some pretty lady general (Sun Ren) from dastardly assassins as she perches on her horse and rains fiery arrows down upon her enemies - since obviously, women can never be screaming frothing balls of rage. -_-
It's an interesting dynamic, though, because it means that all the instances take a set amount of time - no more, no less. When you enter Xiliang Rebellion, for example, what you see is:
Victory: Yan Xing dies
Loss: Ma Chao Dies
Time to Completion: 25m
And so Ma Chao basically charges his mad way through balls of enemies over the course of 25 minutes, and your job is either to heal him, or kill all the enemies before they can wear him down. Ma Chao is level 60, the enemies level 20-24, but there are hordes of them. There are 3 'bosses' in his way before he gets to the final boss, one in each camp which he (and you) stomp through, systematically killing everything. It's attrition at its finest. If you can kill fast enough, or keep Ma Chao healed enough, you'll win. And the best part is, it isn't draggy. Even on repeatedly running the instance, it doesn't drag. In fact, it does feel kinda epic before you outlevel it. And since it always takes the stated amount of time (unless your frothing ball of historical rage dies), it works very well in terms of parcelling out playtime. 'Oh I only have 30 minutes to play today, what shall I do? Aha! There's my favourite frothing ball of historical rage. Let's get going then!'
However, while it generally works pretty well, you probably won't succeed if you are alone, at the minimum level, because Ma Chao will probably die before he gets to the last boss, or at the last boss (the condition for the win). These things are meant to be done in groups, after all. It's not a total loss when you go alone, though, because Ma Chao usually survives at least one boss, if you're solo at minimum level - meaning you'll usually be able to get 1 boss 'token'. Naturally, with a full party (6) of minimum level, chances of Ma Chao surviving and killing the final boss are much better, but what I find interesting is that you almost always get some sort of reward, no matter what your playstyle (unless you go afk).
Even more interestingly, there's something called 'charity'. How it works is, if you / any other punies are in the instance, and there's one high level (65+ in a level 20 instance), if the group succeeds, and the last boss dies, each level 20ish (even-levelled to instance) puny will get 2 tokens. These 2 tokens are given in addition to the reward for winning the instance at the correct level, and they can only be used by level 65+s, and they disappear once you leave the instance. So, in effect, it rewards level 65s for helping punies, but it stacks the deck in terms of social power play, thereby encouraging people to be polite to each other. Because if the punies aren't polite, the level 65 can say, 'Fuck this' and leave without killing the boss. If the level 65 kills the boss, but has been mean to the punies throughout, the punies can then say, 'HAH! I'd rather VANISH these tokens than give them to you! Thbbbbpttt!'
And it does, for the most part, work.
In fact, it's only a problem when the 65 is a total n00b. I didn't think you could be a n00b in PvE, PWE games are that easy, but...
At any rate, I've only had a problem once with a n00b65, and even the problem was kinda funny.
Xiliang Rebellion in HoTK is the first time in years that I have had someone FORTY LEVELS higher than me leech off me.
There I was, killing the hordes of mobbies and keeping Ma Chao alive, and n00b65 was doing nothing at all - except rolling need on the common rewards. XD
It's only happened to me once though - and I could have quit the instance rather than carrying him... I was just so curious to see if he would ever do anything at all.
All in all though, it's a refreshingly different approach to instances, and while it's not something I'll want to do all the time, I do like short stints of it now and then - particularly since it always takes exactly as long as it says it should, and no longer.